Revamped Homeland Security Department to Incorporate INS Duties
On March 1, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formally incorporated the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), along with 21 other agencies, into the largest government reorganization project since the Department of Defense was created in 1947. The INS, which was responsible for both immigration services and enforcement, is now divided among the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services within DHS.
Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge on January 30 announced his intention to reorganize his department, with the stated goals of integrating functions, eliminating overlap between bureaus, increasing support for emergency preparedness, facilitating information-sharing, fostering public-private partnerships across the department's responsibilities, and enhancing immigration services and practices. Under the new structure, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection will incorporate the current Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program, INS inspection services, Customs Services, and Border Patrol in order to handle all aspects of the movement of people and goods across US borders. The former commissioner of the Customs Bureau, Robert Bonner, will head this 30,000-employee bureau. The new 14,000-employee Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, headed by former acting INS commissioner Michael Garcia, will combine the investigation and enforcement responsibilities of the INS with the Federal Protective Services and air and marine Customs agencies. This bureau will be responsible for enforcing immigration and customs laws inside the United States. Immigration benefits and services will fall under the auspices of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, with Eduardo Aguirre serving as the acting director. This bureau will be responsible for processing green card and visa applications and providing services to immigrants and new citizens. For more information on this issue, see the January 2003 Policy Beat.
President George W. Bush has released his FY2004 federal budget proposal, which totals $2.23 trillion. Under the proposal, the Department of Homeland Security would see a 7.4 percent increase from FY2003, reaching a $36.2 billion budget for the coming year. Intelligence analysis and anti-terrorism research and development expenditures would see the greatest increase in funding over FY2003. The proposal also includes funding for the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which is ultimately aimed at allowing the department to track all foreign visitors in the US. With regard to immigration services, the budget proposal requests a $500 million initiative to reduce visa application backlogs and establish a six-month processing standard for all applications.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has once again extended its registration deadlines for foreign male visitors in two "call-in groups" as part of a controversial special registration program announced last year by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Men in call-in groups three (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) and four (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait) will be allowed to register until March 21 and March 28, respectively, in response to requests for more time for individuals to complete registration requirements. The program, part of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), requires registration with immigration authorities by nonimmigrant men (that is, those who are in the US on temporary visas), who are aged 16 and older and come from any one of 25 countries. The designated countries are predominantly Arab and Muslim, as well as states where Al Qaeda is thought to be particularly active.
Public criticism of the program has focused most recently on the registration of Pakistanis. In the wake of the detention of hundreds of men who voluntarily appeared to register in previous rounds, hundreds of Pakistanis in the US have fled to Canada to avoid registration and possible detention and removal. In a recent visit to the US, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Kurshid Mehmood Kasuri expressed concern that NSEERS unfairly targeted Pakistanis and Muslims and argued that detaining and deporting large numbers of Pakistanis would only fuel anti-American extremism in Pakistan and elsewhere. For more information on this issue, see the January 2003 Policy Beat.
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) Special Registration Program, administered by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), faltered in February after a rider on the Senate omnibus budget proposal threatened to eliminate funding for the program. Lawmakers voiced concerns that the program was ineffective in promoting national security and was limiting the efficient provision of immigration services. Many felt that the funds used for registration should instead be directed towards the development, underway for 2005, of an entry-exit registration program that will monitor all visitors who cross in or out of the US, not only those from designated countries. Particular attention was paid to concerns over the number of detentions resulting from the Special Registration Program. House Republicans blocked the Senate provision in the final budget bill, but have demanded details regarding the development and efficacy of the program and a fuller explanation of the detentions that followed the registration of men in "call-in groups" one and two (see above for details). The INS has not disclosed exactly how many of the registrants in those two initial rounds were detained and remain in detention. The Senate and House Appropriations Committee asked for documents, including a demonstration of the program's efficacy, to be delivered from the Justice Department by March 1, 2003. For more information on this issue, see the January 2003 Policy Beat.
Some seven million undocumented immigrants resided in the US as of January 2000, according to a report released January 31 by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The agency estimates the population of unauthorized immigrants to be growing at a rate of approximately 350,000 people per year, though the Executive Summary Report emphasizes that this rate varied considerably throughout the 1990s. California is estimated to have 2.2 million unauthorized immigrants, the largest population in the US and 32 percent of the total. INS statistics on California, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina show the most rapidly increasing numbers of unauthorized immigrants. The report adds that the majority of these immigrants are Mexican citizens, though many others come from El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, China, and Ecuador.
Congress has passed new legislation that significantly reduces federal reimbursements received by states and communities for the cost of incarcerating criminal undocumented immigrants. Under a budget agreement related to the FY2003 appropriations bill, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) budget has been cut by more than 50 percent from $545 million to $250 million. Created in 1990, SCAAP was designed to help ease state and local criminal alien incarceration costs incurred, in part, due to the failure of the federal government's border control initiatives. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component of the Office of Justice Programs, administer the program. The loudest criticism of the funding cut has come from state officials, primarily in Southwest border states, who maintain that local taxpayers must now foot the bill for jailing undocumented immigrants who commit crimes.